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Hello and a huge welcome.

I'm delighted that you've signed up for the 21 day Body Mindfulness Challenge.

I really believe that what I have to share with you can help you to start getting rid of bad posture for good. And we can replace it with improved posture and poise - I want you to think of a sort of Grace Kelly / Audrey Hepburn combo here because that's what we're aiming for.

I can't deny that it will involve some work on your part but we're not talking the lifting weights and physical exertion variety. It's going to be more about using your mind and increasing your awareness of your body and how you are using it. And this is something that you can do throughout the day – no need to add another task to your already busy day.

In the meantime, lots of love and let’s get body mindful!

Dawn, The Flourishing Midlife

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I'm so pleased that you're here and I know you're going to find the next 21 days useful and interesting - it's time for us to get rid of those slumps, improve our posture and start to become much more aware of how we're moving and using our body!

We'll be doing a variety of exercises and I hope you find them all helpful but if one isn't for you just move on to the next. It's all about playing and experimenting with the material and not trying too hard to get it right.

Today I’m going to ask you to become a posture detective. I want you to really start paying attention to the people around you. Become more aware of what they do with their bodies and how they move.

I often do this when I’m sat in the window of a coffee shop - just watching people walk by outside. What impressions do you get of people by the way they use their body?

How often do you see people who walk, stand and sit well? Do people generally look poised or is there a lot of slumping and slouching going on? I want you to become really curious about posture.

Then you can start to notice what you do with your own body. Questions to ask yourself include;

  • What's your own posture like?

  • When do you slouch?

  • Is there a particular time of the day when you're more likely to be guilty of letting your body slump?

  • Do you actually have much awareness of how you're using your body?

  • When do you feel poised and elegant?

Be as detailed as you can in your observations and perhaps take a few notes.

If you have any questions, please get in touch by emailing me at dawn@theflourishingentrepreneur.com. I’d love to hear from you.

But in the meantime, happy posture perfecting and I'll be back with you tomorrow

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Welcome back to day 2.

Today I've given you two options for accessing the content for today.

You can either listen to the audio below or read the text. I know sometimes it can be helpful to learn in different ways or you may have a personal preference yourself, so use whichever suits you best.

At the bottom of the page, you'll also find the link for the meditation. Click on this when you've got ten minutes where you won't be disturbed and always make sure you're not driving or operating machinery when you're doing this. 

I'll be back tomorrow but if you have any questions, just let me know 

Dawn xx

How did you get on yesterday with your observations? I hope you noticed loads. It might have been a shock.

I know the first time I did this I was amazed how rare good posture is. As I said yesterday, I was sat looking out of a coffee shop window and it struck me, no matter their age, there are a lot of slouching people out there!

Little old ladies carrying heavy bags I expected to see slumping, but the shock was seeing teenagers and people in their twenties shuffling along. I expect you also gained a few insights about yourself as well which will be very useful in the days ahead.

This is all very relevant to body mindfulness as we’ll see in a moment.

So what is body mindfulness?

If we’re honest, most of us go through our day lost in thoughts and concerns, caught up in our mental world of tasks to get done, regrets about the past, worries about the future, And yes, we may look after our body but how much do we take notice of how we’re using our body in our daily life, at work, completing chores or driving? When our mind is preoccupied, it’s so easy to loose sense of what we’re doing to our physical self, when we’re cleaning our teeth or picking up a mug of coffee.

And this lack of awareness, shows itself through poor posture, the type of which we were noticing yesterday. It can lead to a feeling of disconnect, of not fully owning our body. Ultimately we lose the vibrant health we had as children because we have failed to notice how much strain we carry in our body. And this strain or tension can then lead to aches and pains because it’s as if we’re going through life with the handbrake. And I’d go so far as to day that tension is a major reason why the way in which Tension is a major reason why the way in which we use our body can deteriorate as we get older - look at small children and they move with ease and grace and not a hint of tension.

So in a moment we’re going to do a short meditation to start paying more attention to our body

Start by finding yourself somewhere comfortable where you won’t be disturbed for ten minutes and obviously don't listen when you're driving or using machinery.

After listening, it might be useful to make some notes of where you feel tension and then throughout your day, start noticing where you hold tension and breathe in ease to that area.

You can listen to today's meditation here . PS The meditation goes quiet after a couple of minutes to give you the chance to sit with your body and see what you notice -don't worry I haven't gone off and left you to make a cup of tea but do eventually come and talk you out of the meditation! 

 
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Welcome back - to access read the text below or go to the bottom of the page for the audio option

How did yesterday's meditation go? 

The important thing is to note that there’s no correct way of doing these exercises and meditations. It’s never going to be about getting it right or doing it one way. Whether you noticed lots of tension in your body or felt relaxed, it’s all about increasing our awareness. So often, we’re completely oblivious to how we’re using our body or how much tension we create with every movement because we’re in our head!

There’s also another point about trying to get these exercises right because whenever we do this, what we end up creating is more tension. You can think of it as like trying to stand up straight. I don’t know about you but as a teenager suffering from low confidence standing up tall and proud was not something I ever found easy. In fact hunched and rounded shouldered was more like it. But my mother was always telling me to stand up. A feat that I achieved by standing stiffly creating more tension making a good posture impossible to maintain. So rest assured that our aim if we have one is to become more aware and use our body with as less strain and as much ease as possible.

So today taking our mindfulness into noticing our habits of using our body, I’d like you to choose one action where you use an object something like brushing your teeth or hair are good ones, or picking up a mug.

Your task is to notice how much muscular tension you use and see if you can use less. So for example, when cleaning your teeth you may notice that you hold the toothbrush as if it were a heavy weight or your shoulders move towards your ears with the effort. Just notice and if you can, use less tension. 

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Over the last few days we’re acted as a posture detective with ourself and others, started to pay more attention to how we’re using our own body when we’re sat at rest and when we’re performing small actions that we’re able to do without too much thought.

So it’s probably a good time to ask you to think about what you want to get out of this short programme. What drew you here in the first place? Do you have any specific body mindfulness issues and if so have these changed as we’ve been doing the exercises over the last few days?

Whatever your reasons for being here, what I want for you is to avoid falling into the trap of thinking that you’re aiming for body mindfulness perfection. We all have times when we get caught up in our thinking only to realise that we’re holding our breath or hunching our shoulders.

And I don't want you to be disheartened if you still slump sometimes or you're prone to the occasional slouch. Too often we feel that we have to be 100% perfect in all that we do but I want to remind you that using our bodies well is a journey, there is always more we can do.

"When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target." ~George Fisher

When I first had back pain and started to deal with my poor posture, my first teacher was in her late 80's. She was a wonderful role model but most importantly she always felt that there was more she could find out about how she used her body, she was a lifelong learner. So commit here and now to doing that yourself. The benefits of using our body well are huge and they're all there waiting for you.

 
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Today's exercise is a fantastic one for dealing with tension in the body. It's called the semi supine or lying down exercise. 

So why is this exercise so important? Well, It helps you think about widening and lengthening your body (all without tension of course). We start by doing it lying down but once you're familiar with it you could use the same idea to help increase body mindfulness as you move throughout your day. 

Before you start you will need to make a few simple preparations. Find yourself a quiet space big enough for you to lie down flat. Maybe on a rug or carpet on the floor is ideal or a massage couch if you have one but not on a bed. It won't give you enough support.

You'll need to find a couple of books of a combined height of 3-5cm. It would also be useful to keep a couple extra beside you at the start of the exercise just in case you need to adjust the height. Once you are ready to begin and have ten minutes free, kick off your shoes and get started.  

You can either listen to the audio below or read through the instructions

The lying down exercise - instructions

Place your books on the floor and very gently lie down on your back so that the books are under your head – not touching your neck but supporting the back of the head.

If your throat feels exposed and your head is tipping back then the books are probably too low and you are going to need to add a little more height. Try one book at a time until you feel comfortable. If on the other hand your throat feels constricted then you will need to take a book away. You are aiming for a height that enables your eyes to comfortably rest at an angle of about 45 degrees above your body.

Play around with the height of the books until you feel comfortable. And breathe. Not altering the breath in any way, but just noticing the air coming in and out, gently in and out. Keeping your eyes open and remaining fully aware of your surroundings.

So when you are ready, bring one foot up and place it flat on the floor so that the instep is parallel with the knee of the straight leg. Then, keeping the feet hip width apart, do the same with the other foot so that both knees are pointing up towards the ceiling. If the knees want to splay apart or touch each other, just bring them back to hip width apart, maintaining that awareness of them pointing up towards the ceiling.

You are not aiming to force your lower back on the floor but just allow your lower back to curve gently towards the floor. Your lower back may touch the floor, or it might not, just allowing it to be where it is and not forcing it anywhere.

Place your hands on your abdomen, with your elbows resting on the floor so that your abdomen has space  ........and breathe.  Your eyes open. Try to stay aware of the present moment and pay attention to your body. If your mind wanders, simply bring your attention back. If your eyes glaze just notice what you can see. It’s a constant process of attention in to your body and back out to your surroundings.. in and out gentle and soft like the breath.

Now turn your attention to your head resting on the books. I want you to allow the books to take the full weight of your head, allowing the neck to be fully supported by the head so that it is relaxed. You can also think about the neck lengthening away from the body without strain. Allow the face to soften and the jaw to lengthen and relax …place the tongue so that it rests behind the bottom teeth. Soften the muscles around the eyes. … and breathe….

Move your attention to your shoulders. If they aren’t touching the floor don’t force them down. But allow the front of your chest to expand so that each shoulder is widening in the opposite direction. You don’t have to do anything to achieve this, there’s nothing to force… simply have the thought of your body flattening, widening and lengthening onto the floor.

And let’s think about your arms. So I’d like you to think about there being space in the joints. In your shoulder joint, space in the elbow, in the wrist and in all the joints of the hand and the fingers. Just imagine as you take your awareness to each of these joints that there is more space, more room for the joint to move freely.  And allow each arm to lengthen from the shoulder joint all the way down to the finger tips. Not to do anything, or force just to have the thought that the arms are lengthening.

Notice how your back is making contact with the floor ……is this contact even or does one side feel more in contact than the other? Just notice what’s going on…don’t try to make too many adjustments other than softening any part of the body where you feel tension. Your aim is to let go of any tension, allow the floor to take the weight of your body and let go of any holding on.

Come back to the face and just make sure that it is still relaxed and soft and breathe.

Notice the length of your back and imagine that your neck is lengthening away from your tail bone and your lower back is widening….so that you are widening across the front of the pelvis. Soften in the groin area.

Think of your knees pointing up towards the ceiling, lengthening out of the hip joint. Feel your legs lengthening, resisting the temptation to hold onto them in the hips and groin. The aim is for you to be doing as little as possible. You can think of it as an exercise in non-doing if you like.

Feel the connection of your feet with the floor. Allow each toe to lengthen as your feet widen and lengthen.

 Enjoy this wonderful feeling of your whole body being supported by the floor, lengthening and widening. Again if there is any tension anywhere, notice it and then see if you can just let it go so that the body softens. Remember to breathe.

So now very gently move your head from side to side and start to move your body. You may like to hug your knees into your lower back and then rock gently from side to side.

When you are ready and in your own time, I’d like you to get up very slowly, keeping that lovely feeling of release in your body. So roll slowly over to one side, rolling until you are in an all fours position. Keeping your neck free of any tension and your back long, place one foot next to your hands and then the other foot. Slowly and carefully stand up.

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How did you get on with working with your slump yesterday?

Today, I’ve included below a copy of a blog I wrote some time ago. I explain some of the reasons why slumping is so bad (and why you might just want to keep up all your good work).

 

The Invasion of the body slumpers

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I don't know about you, but as a child I can remember being terrified after watching 1950's science fiction movies. Looking back as an adult, they now just seem a bit silly.

But you know what? Looking around, it occurs to me that the Invasion of the Body Slumpers is already here.

So have you been taken over?

Have you ever...

·         Pulled your head back and down?

·         Completely squashed the back of your neck, so far in fact that your neck may have completely disappeared?

·         Exposed the front of your throat and stuck out your chin?

·         Rolled your shoulders forward so that the whole of the front of your body is collapsed?

·         Noticed that your ribs are in danger of making contact with your stomach?

·         Rounded your upper back in a way that would do a gnarled old, fairyland witch proud?

·         Rotated your pelvis underneath, so you’re sitting on your sacrum, the lower part of your spine?

I know how easy it is to fall into The Slump’s trap. It’s easy and familiar. Welcome to the very common, world of The Slump. Don’t get me wrong, look around any public space and you’ll notice that lots of people seem to do it.

I’m more than prone to a slump it if I’m tired, miserable or experiencing a “can’t be bothered” mood. But thankfully, my slumps are becoming more and more short-lived and I’ll show you how to do the same yourself.  

It’s not just not pretty it’s also BAD for your health 

The slump or slouch is not a pretty sight. But as I’ve been discovering recently, slumping can also seriously damage your health. I don’t want to cause undue alarm (generally I don’t like to cause a fuss!). But you need to know that The Slump is not good.

It’s obvious that using the body in this way can be disastrous for our back – cue lots of back and neck pain, wear and tear on joints.

But what I hadn’t been aware of until recently is that scientists at the University of Leeds think slouching may also be linked to issues with blood pressure. They’ve discovered that cells in neck muscles send messages to the brain when we move, possibly to make sure our blood supply is adequate. When our posture is poor (think hours and hours slumping) these neck muscle cells can be damaged leading to less than perfect blood pressure. The researchers admit that more research is required but I don’t know about you, but I’m prepared to take their word for it.

So far, that’s reason enough to stop slumping, but there’s more. Researchers at the University of Queensland have found that women suffering from a prolapse or stress incontinence have less curve in their lower spine than women who don’t have these issues.

“If you’re sitting in a slumped, C –shaped posture, there’s more weight bearing down on your bladder and pelvic floor muscles, which will weaken them over time and make you more likely to leak.” Explains Sammy Margo of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Enough said there I think.

 So what can we do to stop this invasion of slumping?

Here’s my quick step guide to help you fight back. I’m going to go into a lot more detail on the e- course I’m currently developing, but this will get you started.

1. Think of your head moving gently upwards away from the shoulders.  This isn't about lifting the chin up and in fact you may need to lower it a tiny, tiny amount so that the back of the neck is nice and long. If you place your hand on the top of your head, just slightly to the back, this is the area that you want to imagine is moving upwards.

Release any tension in the shoulders and upper back, maybe move a bit if this will help. It’s not something you can force, it’s more about undoing the tension and letting it happen, so don’t put effort into this. 

2.When asked to sit up straight, many people fall into the trap of narrowing the back and sitting the chest out. This just leads to more strain. Think of widening across the back and of the shoulders gently heading in opposite directions as your head lengthens upwards. 

3.Sit on your sitting bones (the part of your pelvis that is designed for the purpose). To find them (best not to do this in a public place) place your hands underneath your bottom and you should find two knobbly bits of bones. Make sure they are directly underneath you- if you’re sat on a hard chair, you should be able to feel them. Gently think of your back stretching upwards, not trying to flatten it in any way, but allowing its natural gently curves.

 4.Breathe. Don’t try and hold this as a posture so that you’re sat completely rigid, think of it as a dynamic process.

 Together, we can fight this deadly invasion. 

 

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Today's exercise is called the whispering ah, and (as the name suggests, it's a breathing exercise). It's one to take 10 minutes or so out of your day, sitting somewhere where you won't be disturbed, rather than an activity to do throughout your day.

However, it's a powerful one to help you think about breathing in with more ease and allowing the out breathe to come out in it's own time, again without force.

So find yourself comfortable and click on the link below. 

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Hello there and welcome to Day 18.

Today we're going to focus on feeling gratitude for our body because in the busyness of life, it's so easy to take our body for granted. Hopefully this whole course has brought you to this point as you have become more aware of your body and how you use it.

The exercise suggests you lie down as you did in the lying down exercise on Day 12 , but however you choose, to do this exercise, I hope it reminds you of how amazing your body is. Click here to access the audio, and happy body gratitude!

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Today, I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of resources I found that link into our challenge.

Firstly an article, Click the link for the article and then a ted talk Mindfulness Starts With the Body which was very interesting. Link here.

I look forward to being with you again tomorrow

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